Somali entrepreneur Aisha Mohamed Ahmed came to Somaliland two years ago with a vision to start her own business. She found that doing business in Somaliland was easier than back in the Netherlands as the environment felt more business friendly. When Aisha was still living in the Netherlands she worked as a translator for Somalis for 4 years, capitalizing on her ability to speak 4 different languages which include Somali, Dutch, English and German. She also gained experience working in Administration and Finance for a small company for 2 years where she eventually developed a keen interest in business. Her interest turned into a passion as she started to participate in entrepreneurship seminars in London on business niche training as well as following several business courses online.
After having a child, Aisha became a housewife before deciding to come back to Somaliland to start her own business, the Tea Garden. Established in 2014, Tea Garden is a place for Diaspora youth to purchase food, beverages and other tailored items like branded clothes and souvenirs. Tea Garden also organises events for Diaspora and has become a place for Diaspora youth and professionals to network. Fortunately the Tea Garden is located in Africa House, the 1st business incubator in Somaliland established by SPARK and partners. The large network that comes with Africa House has been great for business and Aisha’s customer base is already connected with the Diaspora demographic that she aims to attract.
What is your personal ambition?
My ambition is to provide a social space and a hangout place for Diaspora youth. Restaurants in Somaliland are overpriced, highly decorated and do not provide anything beyond food and drinks. They often alienate many people. My plans are to incorporate an activity based environment into my business, where customers can find familiar foods and a social atmosphere where they can network and participate in organised events. I plan to hold regular events to attract more customers. Somali cultural events will be very important for the customers, so they feel they are getting something out of their time and money. I also believe it’s important for my customers to be able to purchase cultural products and souvenirs on location. I want them to feel at home whilst at Tea Garden. My passion is to run a business, it’s not about making money, it’s about the art of selling for me, the art of doing something worthwhile and doing it good.
What impact do you see your business making?
At the moment there isn’t a space for Diaspora youth to meet in Hargeisa, to find an environment where they can find foods and activities they are familiar with. This is a particularly important area of focus for Tea Garden. I believe Tea Garden will have a positive impact on the community by providing a place for Diaspora Youth to network, grow and support each other.
How do you see the future of your business?
I have high hopes for the future of Tea Garden. I have yet to embark on a strong marketing campaign so that will be short term goal. Once I do this, I plan to make full use of social media, since Diaspora youth are very connected and tech-savvy. I also plan to locate key Diaspora youth who hope to establish a reputation among this demographic. I intend to visit key locations in the city that are already attracting Diaspora youth and will conduct an informal research on the key patterns and trends among them. I do have expansion plans for my business. In the future I hope to redecorate and refurnish Tea Garden to make it look even more professional for instance by including a glass display cabinet for the souvenirs I sell. I would also like to paint the indoor seating areas with bright colours to increase visibility. The outdoor seating areas would also benefit from fresh paint to enhance the ambience and atmosphere. Additionally I would like to hire extra staff, in particular a waiter and cook, to keep up with the demand and create a more inclusive menu for my diverse customers. Since visibility is a key component of my business, I would like to invest money into an effective marketing campaign and to put in place a large advertising pole to improve visibility.